Getting your child to open up: the TLC approach
More of us worry about our children’s emotional and mental health than is talked about says Child Psychiatrist Dr Sarah Zohra, who is sharing her tips on how timing is everything with her TLC approach
How many of us worry about our children’s emotional and mental health?
Having that initial conversation with your child, regardless of their age can be incredibly difficult:
‘what if I make things worse’, ‘what if they clam up’ or ‘what if I have got this all wrong’
are common fears that may put you, as a parent, off making that crucial first move. And then there is the dilemma of how you physically go about having the ‘conversation’ in the first place? Before even uttering your first word, think TLC.
Time, Location and Child
- T is for TIME
Ask yourself these questions. Is this the right time to be talking to your child about your concerns? Perhaps, it is the end of a long day for the two of you? Are you likely to be interrupted by others walking in? Are you free from other possible distractions such as your phone?
Make sure that you set aside enough time for your conversation, after all you don’t know what it may bring up and having to cut your child short because 'you have somewhere to be' may feed into your child’s ideas that ‘no-one cares or has time for me’.
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- L is for LOCATION
Is this the right place to have the conversation. Over a kitchen table or in a busy shopping centre will probably not lend itself to your child sharing sensitive information so make sure you pick a location free from prying eyes and potential eavesdroppers.
- C is for CHILD
Is this the right approach for this particular child? There is no one size fits all when it comes to having a conversation. What works for your 6 year old will not necessarily work for another 6 year old. The language you use for a 16 year old will be more akin to what you would use for an adult whereas with a younger child your language is likely to be a lot simpler.
Think about their interests. Whilst the most appropriate place to strike up a conversation with your 6 year old daughter may be over role play with her Powerpuff girls, it might be more appropriate to strike up a conversation with your 16 year old daughter over a mother-daughter pamper session.
If your son hates football, then taking him for a kick about to 'have the conversation' will immediately arouse suspicion whilst having a conversation camped out in his bedroom and joining him for a game of Mindcraft may be more familiar territory. Having your child distracted on a task that they enjoy or would ordinarily take part in will make it more likely for them to open up to you more naturally.